Carlos Vela’s future among many unknowns LAFC is trying to resolve

LOS ANGELES — All quiet on the Western Conference front.

Since the longest season in Major League Soccer history concluded in Columbus on Dec. 9, the Los Angeles Football Club, with the notable exception of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, has quietly maneuvered and prepared for a season that opens in 31 days.

LAFC co-president and general manager John Thorrington addressed reporters for the first time ahead of the club’s seventh campaign, saying Thursday that despite supporters’ frustration at the relative silence, big additions are on the way, Denis Bouanga is here to stay, some players had to go elsewhere to play, and, regarding Carlos Vela, he is hopeful but it’s too soon to say.

“I do understand their frustration,” Thorrington said of fans who have been twiddling their fingers searching for news. “I share their frustration. I wish it was done as well. But there’s reasons for it. It’s not because we’re not working. It’s not because we don’t want them now. But I think judgment should not come today. It should come at the end of February when they see the exciting team they’ll have on the field to cheer on (against) Seattle.”

Before Thorrington spoke at the LAFC performance center on the campus of Cal State L.A., the club revealed its preseason roster, which no longer included talented 21-year-old attacker Stipe Biuk, who hours earlier was officially moved to Real Valladolid of Spain’s second division.

The loan, yet another departure from the 2023 squad that was built for depth and versatility ahead of a record-setting 53-match schedule, leaves LAFC with just 16 senior players on the roster.

Last week, Spanish forward Mario Gonzalez was loaned to Sporting de Gijon, also in the Spanish second division.

Midfielder Filip Krastev reportedly won’t return after arriving last summer on a 12-month loan.

First to go was Giorgio Chiellini, retiring three days after the MLS Cup. (In January he was hired as a player development coach and will continue to be an important presence around the club.)

Goalkeeper John McCarthy, the 2022 MLS Cup MVP, headed to the Galaxy as a free agent.

Center back Denil Maldonado signed with a Romanian club, Universitatea Craiova.

LAFC realized it couldn’t offer beloved goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau what he wanted and deserved as a free agent, which led to striking lightning with Lloris, who is expected to land in L.A. from the United Kingdom this weekend, while the Canadian Crepeau wound up in Portland.

Mainstay fullback Diego Palacios moved on to Brazilian powerhouse Corinthians.

Thorrington confirmed on Thursday that midfielder Kellyn Acosta won’t return following two productive years with the club.

The departures boil down a core group that LAFC believes is poised to deliver.

“If we were playing tomorrow, the 11 who would step on the field is a really good group,” Thorrington said. “I just think now we need to round that out and only bring players in that add to the quality we have, which is not easy because of the players we already have. But we have some options that will soon be finalized and announced that we’re really excited about.”

LAFC has pinpointed left back as a key hole to fill and is linked with young Mexican Omar Campos from Santos Laguna. Thorrington expects to add a couple of more pieces in the midfield, joining Ilie Sanchez, Timothy Tillman and young Erik Duenas.

And he promised announcements about young and experienced attackers, adding to the quality around the dominant Bouanga, ascendant Cristian Olivera, hungry Mateusz Bogusz and academy hotshot Nathan Ordaz

In the middle of the defense, LAFC likes the quartet of Aaron Long, Jesus Murillo, Eddie Segura, who is returning from injury, and 19-year-old Italian prospect Lorenzo Dellavalle from LAFC2, whose acquisition last summer Thorrington described as “an incredible coup.”

As quiet as it has seemed from the outside, “this has been, not even close, but by far the busiest offseason I’ve ever had, including our scouts and everybody,” Thorrington said. “It has been absolutely nonstop, and I think that work is paying off.”

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